The noxious politics of climate change
Published: Dec 21, 2009 12:48 AM Updated: May 25, 2011 01:11 PM

The world's largest unrepentant contributor of carbon dioxide, the United States, has turned itself into a leader for fighting climate change with little substantial commitment at the climate change conference that it nearly sabotaged.

At the eleventh hour, the five countries of China, India, Brazil, South Africa, and the US inked the Copenhagen Accord. This made sure that Obama would have something to declare as victory when he is back home to raise his approval rating.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's breathtaking announcement that the US would collect $100 billion every year for 10 years captured the headline worldwide. There was no mention as to where this amount would come from though no one was left in the least doubt about the stringent terms to bind the would-be recipient countries.

Grudgingly accepted by major countries, the Copenhagen Accord will unravel in the years to come as the countries get down to working out the details of the vaguely worded deal.

D e v e l o p i n g countries still need to work together to safeguard their interests, such as ensuring that developed countries honor their pledge to cut emissions and deliver the capital and technology to which they have committed.

The Copenhagen conference demonstrated that China and developing countries have deeply-shared interests and stakes. At one stage, because of the Group of 77 being frustrated by the rich countries, the conference appeared to be on the verge of falling apart. China, too, was unfairly targeted with the US and the EU insisting that it accept disproportionate responsibility.


Although China is willing to accept more responsibility, its role is defined by its national conditions as a developing country.

For long seen as a spokesperson of the developing countries, China's challenge in this role is how to meet the diverse interests and expectations of this increasingly differentiated group.

At the Copenhagen conference, China has played its due part to protect smaller developing countries, holding together the "common but differentiated responsiblities."

Building consensus amid difference can best protect the interest of developing countries that, at the same time, need to achieve more cooperation and coordination.

Though at uneven stages of development, correcting global political imbalances and striving for a better environment are shared goals of the developing countries. These call for a unified approach to acceptance of responsibility.

Sticking together with developing countries is in line with China's long-term diplomatic strategy. For this to be more effective on the global stage, China needs better communication and coordination with developing peers.

To convince and steer these long-time friends in the desired direction requires patience, planning and sophistication.

These are the long-term challenges for China's diplomacy in accordance with its goal as a responsible big country in the international community.

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